Smith/Doorstop Books 2006 -  £3.00


THIS IS A MODEST, friendly–almost cheeky—little pamphlet, from a poet whose cover bio reads: “Ed Reiss lives and works in Bradford.” A professional under-stater? Or perhaps a writer who knows how to disarm a reader conditioned by hype. In ‘Lots of Successful People and Me’, “Clive heads a leading hedge-fund consultancy”, Davinda, Francesca and Hannah perform equally significant functions in life and (last line) “I live and work in Bradford”. It’s engaging. This is a person you can like—if you identify with the quiet voice, the person who suggests rather than asserts, the poet who deems ‘poetic’ language distinctly dodgy.

    ‘Sharp Elbows’ is very good, and funny too. Clever. You keep thinking about it after you’ve read it, and each time you read it, you enjoy it all over again. The point is that ‘The radical is/ reappropriated by the very force/ it seeks to undermine’. Evidence to prove this is found in a work situation with which many could identify:


          Take my boss, Slobber McJab,

          purple-jowled, advancing sideways

          in a swivel-chair towards me.

          I stopped


          him with a joke. Saying what

          we mean and nothing but,

          would put us on the spot

          and land us in it, wouldn’t it?


Well yes, it might. It might. There’s a good range here in this little handy pamphlet: some tricksy stuff, and some emotive moments, a spare, judicious choice of epithet, and a sense of delight. Reiss is not easy to classify—always a good sign. He may live and work in Bradford but metaphorically speaking he is somewhere harder to find (though well worth looking for). The last lines of his poem ‘Branch’ are perfectly true:


          I’m not sure where I am, but I’ve arrived.

          I’m here to prove it.


Helena Nelson